Thailand Braces for ‘Mega Outbreak’ of Dengue Fever


Thailand is reportedly bracing itself for another ‘mega outbreak’ of the mosquito-borne dengue fever, with the number of infections possibly surpassing even the record 170,000 cases reported in 1987. Only last year, Thailand recorded some 140,000 cases, the highest number in nearly three decades, and 126 deaths from the virus.
The most notable fatality was a popular Thai soap opera star who died earlier this month after developing a series of complications. Channel NewsAsia note that the actor’s death “made the public realize that Dengue fever does not only affect those living in remote areas.” Very true.
A German friend of your webmaster here in Pattaya was diagnosed with dengue fever just a couple of weeks ago. He spent a week in bed recovering from a raging fever, aching joints, a skin rash covering most of his body, and severe headache.
His symptoms were more severe but otherwise pretty much the same as those that half a dozen other people in our neighbourhood, including your webmaster (who never went to see a doctor over his inexplicable rash and fever), had displayed since the end of November. I take it now that we all suffered from dengue fever, just with slightly varying symptoms and severity, which is not unusual for dengue fever infections.

Channel NewsAsia report now that the

first line of defense against the epidemic that has swept through Southeast Asia sees teams of local officials armed with machines spraying mosquito-killer, who patrol daily around Bangkok in an attempt to eliminate mosquito-breeding sites. (…)

“More people are moving to the capital and that’s why it’s worse there than in the provinces or small towns. It’s spreading because of urbanization and a lack of mosquito control,” said Dr. Duangporn Pinsrilesikul from the Health Department of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry is expecting Dengue cases to swell by more than 16 percent this year. The reason for the rise is simple – mosquitoes have more places to breed now that chemical spraying is less effective and population clusters give the disease areas in which to propagate.

In addition,

for many years in Thailand, Dengue fever was considered a disease that only affected children, but now most new cases reported are young adults (…)

That’s an understatement. Your webmaster’s German mate is in his early 50s. I’m just about 10 years younger myself, and the other half a dozen possible cases in our neighbourhood that, to a certain extent, all suffered from an inexplicable skin rash and high fever for a couple of days, were mostly in their early 30s.
So far we haven’t seen any chemical spraying in our neighbourhood yet, effectively putting us all at risk of a possibly more dangerous secondary infection from the mosquito-borne virus.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any specific treatment available for dengue fever at present, and aside from applying mosquito repellents, there’s only little you can do to protect yourself. The first dengue fever vaccine received approval in Mexico only in December 2015 – that’s just a month ago. And while the vaccine should be widely available in 2016, hopefully also in Thailand, studies found that it’s unfortunately only 60% effective.
For the time being, Channel NewsAsia conclude with a bleak outlook, Thailand’s anti-dengue fever strategy is restricted to chemical spraying to eliminate breeding opportunities for mosquitoes. Let’s just hope this happens not only in Bangkok, but also in other parts of Thailand, as soon as possible.

UPDATE (February 29) – During the first two months of the year, the number of dengue fever cases in Thailand has reportedly more than doubled from 4,263 in 2015 to 8,651 this year. With “prevention and control measures (…) not strictly implemented in vulnerable localities,” the situation has been described by health ministry officials as “dangerous and very worrying.”

2 Responses to Thailand Braces for ‘Mega Outbreak’ of Dengue Fever

  1. scary stuff. especially should the mainstream international press get hold of this, and actually research into it. tourism would undeniably take a direct hit. i will be
    stocking up with repellant this year hehe. joking aside though this story is worrying
    as we all know every individual gets affected differently, so one person may experience a slight rash and headache,whilst another could take a more serious adverse affect.and as you pointed out there is no real cure as yet it really is scary stuff.

  2. If it touched officials , could it become more than just worrying ? What about investing in ways to decimate populations of dengue carrying mosquitos through breeding technology ? Just spraying is not nearly enough.

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